Pa. Rep. Boyle: I’m worried most ‘by the Jan. 6 that could still happen’ | Thursday Morning Coffee

Boyle, D-2nd District, says he wants to see full accountability — legislatively and legally — for those behind the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol 

January 6, 2022 7:09 am

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: A pro-Trump mob breaks into the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

One year ago on this day, U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle was at his desk at the Longworth House Office Building, near the U.S. Capitol, when he heard an enraged mob, fueled by a former president’s false claims of fraud, making its way up Independence Avenue.

Boyle, D-2nd District, and other Pennsylvania lawmakers had been asked by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to craft remarks defending against Republican attacks on the Keystone State’s election results.

And, “as I’m finishing my speech about … the miracle of Philadelphia in 1776 and 1787, and quoting [President] John Adams that democracy dies by suicide, I’m increasingly aware of the crowd that’s basically outside my window,” Boyle told the Capital-Star. “It’s a surreal juxtaposition. And things went downhill quickly.”

Like millions of Americans last Jan. 6, Boyle, of Philadelphia, watched on television, as the horrific spectacle of rioters sacking the Capitol and viciously assaulting Capitol police officers, unfolded in real time.

Ultimately, the insurrectionists were frustrated in their efforts to prevent the legal certification of President Joe Biden’s and Vice President Kamala Harris’ victory on Election Day. But it came at a terrible cost in lives and in lasting damage to our national psyche.

And from that day to this one, former President Donald Trump, along with his Republican allies in Congress, including several from Pennsylvania, have tried to convince their fellow citizens that the nation simply needs to move on from the worst attack on our seat of government since the War of 1812, when the British Army set fire to the Capitol, the presidential residence, and other local landmarks.

The U.S. Capitol. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/The Virginia Mercury).

Trump, who lost, and who repeatedly failed in court to show any evidence of fraud, has sought to discredit the absolutely necessary work of a congressional panel investigating the events of that horrific day. And again, in this effort, he’s been aided by fellow Republicans, including those from Pennsylvania, notably U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District.

But as was the case with the Watergate hearings a generation ago, Americans deserve to know everything they can about how and why the events of that day unfolded, and how it can be prevented from ever happening again.

And if you’re inclined to dismiss Boyle’s assertions as mere partisanship, remember that the rioters were bipartisan in their rage. They prowled the Capitol’s halls calling for the execution of former Vice President Mike Pence, in addition to whatever violence they sought to perpetrate against such senior Democrats as Pelosi  and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

Like scores of lawmakers and congressional staffers, Boyle was shaken to his core by that horrible day. But some Pennsylvania lawmakers felt its impacts more directly than others.

U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th District, who was watching in the House gallery, suffered a debilitating panic attack as rioters breached the building. She was aided by one of her colleagues, U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., a former Army Ranger who’d served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The photo of Crow aiding Wild has become an indelible image of the day.

U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th District, also was seated in the gallery, and was among the lawmakers who thought what had begun as a pro forma process might end as their last day on Earth.

In the days after the attack, Wild joined with her House colleagues to call for Trump’s removal or impeachment.

While the majority-Democrat House approved a single article of impeachment charging the former president with inciting the riot, he once again evaded conviction in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. Nonetheless, a historic number of senators, seven of them, including retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., did vote in favor of conviction.

Boyle told the Capital-Star that he hopes the House select committee investigating the attacks will recommend such fixes that can be turned into legislation, such as reforms to the Electoral Count Act, the arcane bit of law that dictates the certification of election results, so “that one member of the House or Senate can’t subject us to what we were subjected to on Jan. 6.”

Capitol police try to hold back rioters outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo by Alex Kent for the Tennessee Lookout)

Writing in the Washington Post on Wednesday, a group of scholars, spanning the ideological spectrum, pressed the case for those reforms, arguing that the premise of any reform should be based on the assumption that “Congress is not a national recount board, or a court for litigating the outcome of presidential elections. It is not the role of Congress to revisit a state’s popular vote tally.”

But any legislative action has to be accompanied by aggressive prosecution by the Justice Department – no matter where the trail leads, Boyle told the Capital-Star.

“Imagine if, after Watergate, the only people who were prosecuted were the five burglars,” he said. “ … Anyone, and everyone, regardless of their current or former title, all the way up to the former president, if the facts and evidence warrant it,” should be held to account, he argued.

Recent polling showing that the majority of Americans believe that democracy is under threat underscores the need for a thorough account by Congress and by the punishment of those who tried to topple the government.

“What worries me the most isn’t the Jan. 6 that’s already happened, it’s the Jan. 6 that could still happen in the future,” Boyle said.

It’s a warning. But it could well be a prophecy if justice isn’t served.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
In their first debate of the 2022 campaign season, the current crop of 13  Republican gubernatorial hopefuls promised lower taxes and school choice if GOP voters pick them. Stephen Caruso has the story.

Capital-Star Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa runs down what’s happening in Washington D.C. on the Jan. 6 anniversary.

State Rep. Austin Davis, D-Alleghenyhas made it official, he’s seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor — with the endorsement of Attorney General Josh Shapiro, our partners at City & State Pa., report.

More than 50 people rallied in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood on Wednesday to support the unionization efforts of baristas at Coffee Tree Roasters, a West Mifflin-based coffee chain, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Too many of Pennsylvania’s  current and aspiring elected officials continue to spread the Big Lie and foment divisionU.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th District, writes. Former Wolf administration spokesperson-turned-PR exec J.J. Abbott reflects on the culpability of Pa. Republicans on the Jan. 6 anniversary. And writing for our sibling site, the Daily Montanan, author Tiffani Gallant considers the power of books, and why we need to fight efforts to ban them tooth-and-nail.

Philadelphia City Hall (Image via

The Philadelphia fire that killed 12 early Wednesday is one of the deadliest in decades, the Inquirer reports.

Eight children are heartbreakingly among the deadWHYY-FM reports.

Seventeen people from western Pennsylvania have so far been charged in connection with the Capitol riot, the Tribune-Review reports.

NPR has five takeaways from the criminal cases related to the riot (via WITF-FM).

Roll Call looks at the delays congressional investigators are facing as they press for accountability in the riots.

Pennsylvania Republicans largely ignored PennLive’s requests for comment about the Jan. 6 anniversary.

One year later, U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th Districtreflects on the Capitol riot, and the photo of her that went viral, the Morning Call reports.

With cases surging in Lancaster County, at-home test kits are selling fastLancasterOnline reports.

COVID-19 testing sites in Luzerne County have been overwhelmed amid an increase in cases, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

New Erie County Executive Brenton Davis is easing mask mandates for vaccinated people in county buildings, GoErie reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
The Legislative Reapportionment Commission holds the first two, of a scheduled four, public hearings on this year’s proposed legislative maps. The sessions take place at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. in Hearing Room 1 of the North Office Building. And the Farm Show Butter Sculpture gets unveiled at 10 a.m. this morning in the Farm Show Complex’s main hall.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s one from Cautious Clay for your Thursday morning. It’s ‘Wildfire.’

Thursday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
The Toronto Maple Leafs got past the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 on Wednesday night in one of a pair of games on the docket. It was the Oilers’ fifth straight loss.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.